Laura Begley Bledsoe
Editor’s note: Laura Begley and Matthew Bledsoe were the winners of the Dream Wedding package — valued at $25,000 — and were married on Sept. 14 at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City. The Times-News has followed their wedding story throughout the year. This is the final story on Laura and Matthew.
This time last year Laura Begley Bledsoe and Matthew Bledsoe’s plans were to have a rustic, outdoor wedding on Laura’s family farm in Gate City.
But last October when the couple learned they were the winners of the Dream Wedding Contest, presented by the Kingsport Times-News and sponsored by Sophisticated Smiles by Angela Cameron, D.D.S., P.C., all of their plans changed.
Instead of saying “I do” on the family farm, Laura and Matthew exchanged their vows Saturday, Sept. 14 at the elegant Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City.
In addition to the venue, Laura and Matthew’s Dream Wedding package — valued at $25,000 — included the wedding ceremony, reception and hotel accommodations for the bride and bridegroom, and their parents; the wedding attire for the entire bridal party including bride and bridegroom; wedding flowers; including bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids; a custom wedding cake; DJ and photography; and pampering for the bridal p a r t y.
The following vendors helped make Matthew and Laura’s dream wedding happen: Sophisticated Smiles by Angela R. Cameron, D.D.S, P.C.; Anna Hedges Photography; Austin Springs Spa & Salon; Carnegie Hotel; Dress To Impress; Night Moves Mobile DJ’s; Rainbow’s End Floral Shop; The Cake Gallery; and Tricia’s by Design.
Laura and Matthew have spent much of the past year meeting with the different vendors and discussing and planning every possible detail of their big day.
“It really didn’t hit me until the Thursday before we got married that we were really doing this,” said Laura. “I couldn’t sleep that whole week, but on Thursday night I could not sleep at all. I woke up several times just thinking about different things that could go wrong or who’s taking care of this or who’s taking care of that. But I don’t even know why I was stressed about all that because we had a vendor for everything.”
Matthew and Laura said everyone had warned them to expect a glitch on their wedding day.
“Everybody said there’s always one thing that will go wrong,” Laura said. So, just being a typical bride, I guess I was freaking out. But we didn’t have anything to stress about, and it was just awesome. Every vendor was there, and most of them were early. They all went above and beyond what they needed to do.”
“I told Laura that everybody kept talking about how stressful it would be, but we didn’t feel any stress at all,” Matthew said.
One of the most special moments of Matthew and Laura’s day was their “first look.”
A first look is a new trend in wedding photography that stages a moment set up by the wedding photographer for the bride and bridegroom to see each before the ceremony. The photographer then captures the couple’s reaction to seeing each for the first time with no one else around.
Matthew admits he is a traditionalist and wasn’t thrilled about the idea of seeing Laura before their actual wedding ceremony. But, he says, after they had done the first look, he was so glad they’d had this moment to themselves before the wedding and that it took nothing away from the first moment he saw Laura walking down the aisle.
“I knew Matthew would be a nervous wreck. We did our first look at the Carnegie. We were outside, and I snuck up behind him and grabbed his hand and he was shaking so bad. We both just bawled when we saw each other,” Laura said.
For her bouquet, Laura had chosen to carry a brooch bouquet — a bouquet made entirely of brooches she had collected. One brooch in particular had special significance to Matthew. It was a purple butterfly brooch that belonged to his mom, Nancy, who died a few years ago.
“The bouquet turned out awesome ,” Laura said. “I got so many compliments on it. I will use it as a decoration for now, but if we have a daughter one day, I can always give it to her.”
Laura and Matthew say being a part of the Dream Wedding experience was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and they have no regrets about not having their wedding on Laura’s family farm.
“We have absolutely had the best time of our lives,” Laura said. “Just thinking about all the different things we would’ve been stressed about, I just can’t imagine doing it the way we had originally planned. Not having to worry about anything was probably the best part of all of this. We were just in la-la land this past year, playing it cool, saving money for our honeymoon. We didn’t have to worry about anything. We will never forget any of this. It’s something we can tell our kids and then they can tell their kids.”
Just hours after returning from a weeklong honeymoon in Jamaica, Laura and Matthew were planning to look at new cars, unpack some wedding gifts as well as their luggage and begin life together in their home in Nickelsville, Va.
“We’ve got to get used to living together,” Laura said.
“I guess my house is no longer a man cave,” said Matthew, laughing.
Matthew and Laura have become local celebrities of sorts since becoming the winners of the Dream Wedding contest.
“It’s so funny because people who don’t know us have read about us. I love to meet those people who got to know us through this process. We went to the bank this morning and the lady waiting on us recognized us from the paper,” Laura said. “It has just all been so much fun.”
Getting back to the real world may take some time, the couple says.
"It will be a while before we’re back to normal. This has been truly like a dream, a real dream,” said Laura. “We said everyday on our honeymoon, ‘Can you believe we’re married?!’”
Couple goes from rustic nuptials to extravagant event
Bride starts looking at gowns, couple tours venue
Couple decides on ‘first look’ and ‘lavender and lace’
Bridegroom chooses his tux, couple selects four-layer cake